Welcome to our IDEAS & ADVICE pages
Now that the garden is springing into life, there is plenty of fresh growth on perennials such as Phlox, Sedum, Cat Mint and Aster, which will flower later in the summer and early autumn. Giving these plants a trim in May, sometimes known as the ‘Chelsea Chop’, produces bushier plants with more flower stems. An added bonus is plenty of soft wood cutting material so that you can increase your stocks easily to replace old plants or simply use a favourite one in other areas of the garden.
Here is a quick guide to taking soft wood cuttings successfully so that you get results like a professional!
What to do
Choose vigorous, non flowering shoots that are ‘true to type’ so that an even batch of cuttings is produced.
Collect the cutting material just before you are going to use it and pop it into a damp polythene bag along with a label detailing the plant name and date. Any plants in containers should be well watered the night before the cuttings are taken. Use a sharp pair of secateurs or scissors and cut the material longer than needed – it can be cut to size when you make the cuttings.. If you are using pots to strike your cuttings, mix multipurpose compost with Vermiculite or Perlite at roughly half and half quantities to ensure good drainage and water well. Notcutts also sell a range of Jiffy pots, which are watered to expand the peat in them. The cuttings can then be placed in these individually.
Make the cuttings by using the top five to eight centimetres of growth and cutting on a leaf joint (node). Remove the lower leaves with a knife or scissors, taking care not to damage the main stem. Leave the portion of stem that will be in the soil bare to help stop the cutting from rotting. Plants with large leaves, such as Phlox and Penstemons, should have their upper leaves trimmed by half to prevent water loss whilst the cutting is rooting. Dip the bare stem portion of the cutting into rooting powder and insert it into well watered pots of compost or Jiffy pots or strips. Remember to label the container with the date and plant name! Cover the cuttings with a propagator lid or polythene bag kept clear of the leaves, to help prevent them drying out.
Once the cuttings have been taken, they can go into a propagator in your greenhouse or a windowsill propagator in your house. Use a hand sprayer set on a fine mist to keep the leaves of the cuttings moist, if necessary, until they are rooted. The cuttings will soon show signs of rooting and will begin to grow away. Once the roots are seen at the base of the pot or coming through the Jiffy pots, they can be potted on individually into a small (9 cm) pot and grown on ready for planting out into the garden!
Many perennials and summer bedding plants such as Pelargoniums (Geraniums), Marguerites (Argyranthemums) and Osteospermum (Cape Daisies) can be increased from soft wood cuttings, so why not try this rewarding technique for yourself?